MugwumpsCass Elliot, better known as Mama Cass, called The Mugwumps “the first folk rock group ever”, on Johnny Carson. Whether or not that’s true is almost irrelevant. Regardless of whether The Mugwumps were literally the first folk rock group, the rerelease of their only recordings (a 21 minute self-titled album) is still a welcome release to any fan of early folk rock. Made up of Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty, Zal Yanovsky, and Jim Hendricks, the band may be best known from the lyrics of the Mamas and the Papas song Creeque Alley:

When Cass was a sophomore, planned to go to Swathmore
But she changed her mind one day.
Standin’ on the turnpike, thumb out to hitchhike,
“Take me to New York right away.”
When Denny met Cass he gave her love bumps;
Called John and Zal and that was the Mugwumps.

For whatever reason, the band didn’t catch much popular attention and disbanded with only one album released. Later Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty went on to fame with the Mamas and the Papas, while Jim Hendricks and Zal Yanovsky also garnered much popularity with the Lovin’ Spoonful. But these nine songs lived on, and for the last 43 years have been pretty much lost it seems. Now that popular music is heading downhill with Fergie and Ashlee Simpson representing the music industry, what better time to release a classic album?

Each song is quick and energetic, and has a classic 60’s folk-rock feel. The harmonizing is spot on, particularly in Searchin’ and Everybody’s Been Talkin’ where the backups by Cass really shine through, as do the occasional high notes and almost-yelling vocals being hit on the male end. While no song is over three minutes long, the expressive You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover clocks in at 2:59 and outshines the other eight songs on the album for sheer quality, of writing, singing, and performing. It’s the kind of song that would be released as a single on the radio today to promote a new band, the kind of single fans download on iTunes and listen to over and over.

Surprisingly, the 21-minute length of the album doesn’t disappoint, and in fact turns it into a quick and relaxing easy listen that asks to be left on repeat and let to play over and over. It’s a great tribute to music from the 60’s (big surprise since it was recorded in the ’60’s, right?) and though some of the songs sound vaguely familiar – due to the large amount of music of this type made in the time period – each song manages to hold its own with the listener’s ears and stay new.

For a brief history of The Mugwumps, visit Wikipedia
To purchase The Mugwumps self-titled album, visit Amazon

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